Alex Enumah in Abuja
The Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON), a body representing broadcast stations in Nigeria, has cried out over the skyrocketing costs of operation following the high cost of petrol and diesel, saying broadcast stations are “gasping for breath.”
The BON said the broadcast stations, which it described as a “stabilising factor in maintaining political stability, security and peace of the country,” are under serious threat due to the harsh economic environment.
Executive Secretary of BON, Dr Yemisi Bamgbose, in a statement said if nothing is done urgently to arrest the current trend, the stations might shut down. He noted that this would pave the way for the media space to be littered with fake news.
According to the organisation, “there are ominous signs that danger of high magnitude is looming in Nigeria as the conventional media, which has been the stabilising factor in maintaining political stability, security and peace of the country is under serious threat due to the harsh economic environment.”
It noted that even before the announcement of the total collapse of the national electricity grid, public power supply had been epileptic, at best, while the bills for the non-available power supply kept and keeps rising unabated.
The group decried the lingering scarcity of petroleum products, stressing that diesel, which fuels the generating sets of these organisations, has more than doubled in price over the last four months.
“The value of the naira has tumbled so badly while remaining very scarce affecting the repairs and replacement of broadcast equipment, all of which are imported.
“The National Broadcasting Commission’s levy of 2.5 per cent on turnover (not profit) outside of station license fees, federal statutory taxes, state and local government taxes and Levies combine to impose a huge burden on the retained revenues of broadcast licensees.
“All broadcast stations (radio and television, private and public) are supported by the same pool of advertisers and while broadcast stations are increasing in number, the advertising spend has been reducing over the last ten years, owing to the dwindling economy, and this has adversely affected the income of broadcast organisations even as operating costs are increasing daily.
“Radio and television stations typically need approximately N500,000 to N700,000 and N700,000 to N1,000,000 daily to run generators, which have become their main sources of power supply, to maintain their transmissions and keep the equipment at the optimal temperatures necessary for the efficient performance and sustaining the projected lifespan of their equipment.
“Broadcast media, being the source that e public turn to for authenticating breaking news, must gather information, produce programmes and transmit same to keep the public informed and entertained. With diesel costs averaging more than N700 per litre and having to resort to buying petrol, from the black market, at more than N2,000 per litre, broadcast organisations are recording such huge deficits that have resulted in staff salaries being delayed.
“These issues have to be addressed urgently to avoid the total shutdown of operations by broadcast organisations, most of whom have resorted to reducing transmission hours.
“Broadcast organisations that are, and have been for a while now, struggling to keep their stations on-air are doing so to ensure unfettered access to verified and authentic information, which helps to avoid the chaos that could arise from fake news, which could lead to public disorder.
“If the issues raised above are not addressed immediately, it portends grave consequences for the nation as accurate, verified and information dissemination, pubic enlightenment and entertainment provided by conventional media organisations might no longer be available giving way to the uninhibited proliferation of fake news and unverified information,” BON explained.
The organisation however advised both the executive and legislative arms of government to take advantage of the current amendment of the constitution to resolve the lingering issue of radio and television licence fees with which public broadcast stations are funded in Europe, South Africa and Ghana.